Walt Disney World, flamingos, and … accounting marketing conferences? Florida really does have it all! The Association for Accounting Marketing knows how to put on a great annual summit, and this year was no different. For the past few years, Vertical IQ has joined this group of professionals to learn about the latest trends, challenges, and opportunities for accounting marketing professionals, and we can tell you: It’s a lot more than just spreadsheets and taxes! Accounting firms are experiencing an age of change.

To top it all off, there was Disney-caliber magic in this year’s summit’s theme: rejuvenation, inspiration, invigoration. We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s dig into what we learned.

Bringing value to the deal table

Now more than ever, clients are looking for more than just a service; they’re looking for how you can deliver value. This goes far beyond the specific service you offer, extending to the experience you deliver them from beginning to end. In a session by Julie McPherson, Director of Training at The Rainmaker Companies, she shared a clever framework to utilize when trying to pinpoint your prospective clients’ challenges:

R: What is the current REALITY?
A: What is the ANGST the prospect is facing in their business?
I: What is the IMPACT if they don’t fix that angst?
N: What does the NEW REALITY look like when the angst is fixed?

In 2024, advisors are not solely door-openers or lead generators. McPherson said that as value-adding problem solvers, we need to go deeper, and this begins by asking better questions. And often, this means knowing your prospects’ challenges and having a proposed solution before they even walk in the door.

Client experience cannot be understated

Vertical IQ’s VP of Customer Success, Courtney Farfour, just wrote about her experience at Forrester’s B2B Summit where one of the main themes was the imperative of customer obsession. A good client experience is no longer a “nice to have”; it’s essential for any strategic targeting. Alyson Fieldman, Fractional Chief Growth Officer at Rockit Results, cemented this with some hard-hitting facts.

According to Salesforce, nearly 90% of buyers say the experience a company delivers matters as much as its products or services. This means that every touchpoint a firm has with a prospect or client over the lifetime of the relationship is critical! Fieldman then went on to share a stat by Gartner: Over two-thirds of customer loyalty is tied to customer experience, which is more than brand and price combined.

Fieldman first defined the difference between client service and experience. Services are the tactics, deliverables, and availability — essentially, what clients pay for. Client experience, however, is conveyed through an emotional response — a client’s perceptions and feelings.

Put yourself in the mind of your client, and ask yourself the following:

Do they understand my industry and business?
Do they care about me as a person?
Are they invested in my success?
Do they share my goals?
Do they make me feel special?

If your answer to any of these questions is “no,” then you’ve got some gaps to fill. Many Vertical IQ users leverage our Industry Intelligence to answer the hard-hitting questions about a prospect’s industry, which then allows them to go deeper into these other questions.

Fieldman suggested that adopting an “out-side in” method of thinking will allow you to think from the client’s point of view. Here are the top three ways to do this:

        1. Build client empathy: Encourage members of the team to regularly interact with clients in different ways.
        2. Solicit feedback and amplify the voice of the client: Asking clients how they experience working with you is foundational to later steps, like identifying CX gaps and creating CX initiatives to fill those gaps. Plus, it demonstrates care!
        3. Identify CX gaps: Based on the feedback you receive, or other self-analysis, look for places where there is friction and try to remove those obstacles.

One more reason to give this effort a shot: According to Emplifi, 61% of consumers will pay more if they know they’ll get a good customer experience.

Cultivating a culture of growth

Part of creating a holistic experience for your clients is cultivating the right team to lead the charge. Mark Burnette, Chief Growth Officer at LBMC, pointedly said that the key word for building a culture of growth is “intentionality.”

Being intentional begins with what Burnette called his “five Fs”:

        1. Focus: Ensure that you’re working on the right opportunities in the right places at the right time.
        2. Field: Put the right people in the right roles in the right places with the right tools and resources.
        3. Fundamentals: The things we must get consistently right to sell effectively are messaging, prospecting, discovery, presenting, and negotiating.
        4. Forecast: Predict the future through accurate forecasting that is focused on buyer behavior.
        5. Fun: Create an environment where the team has fun every day, loving what they do, who they work with, and where they work.

At Vertical IQ, we certainly take the last “F” to heart! All jokes aside, Burnette’s points certainly ring true. Something we consistently heard at the summit was that teams are overwhelmed — overwhelmed with tools, resources, workloads, and priorities. Taking the time to focus on the “right things” is necessary for firms to maximize their efforts and still achieve their goals.

Industry specialization: the next big thing?

Our next speaker certainly knew a thing or two when it comes to being intentional about what their team focuses on. Ben Sappington, Senior Business Development Executive at Moss Adams, spoke about building an industry-focused business development practice and the wild success that their firm has experienced from it.

Moss Adams was among the first major accounting firms in the nation to organize by industry. Why be industry-focused? At Moss Adams, it goes back to the idea of being intentional. Among the benefits Sappington referenced was how being industry-focused resulted in deeper referral networks and stronger partnerships, allowing their representatives to be seen as industry influencers. Specialization also provided them better success in cross-selling and even a larger strategic pipeline from targeted business development executives.

If that wasn’t enough to convince you, Sappington shared that their team is 22% ahead of their forecasted ‘24 goals with larger average sales. Our own CEO, Bobby Martin, has written about the benefits of targeting industries as a part of a successful prospecting strategy, so for us, this session certainly hit home.

Feeling rejuvenated, inspired, and invigorated

Each year we leave AAM with something new that gets us thinking. Learning what our accounting marketing clients are facing helps us to better serve them and overcome today’s challenges. We truly found ourselves feeling rejuvenated, inspired, and invigorated from start to finish.

Throughout the week, I kept going back to how Industry Intelligence helps you stay present and positions you for success by saving you time, helping you prepare, and giving you the timely and relevant industry insights you need to have thoughtful and intentional interactions with your clients. We cannot wait to see you next year in Phoenix!

Speaking of accounting conferences… are you heading to AICPA and CIMA’s ENGAGE Conference on June 3-6 in Las Vegas? If so, join us for a fun night with food, drinks, and bowling on Monday night! Find more details and RSVP to be on Vertical IQ’s team here!  

Start making magic with your clients, and see how Industry Intelligence can help your firm! Click here to contact us and to request a demo.

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